Skip navigation

Welsh outlook


Vol. 3, No. 9 Sept. 1916

Welsh education and national unity

Previous page Rotate Left Rotate Right Next page Original Image Large Image Zoom View text PDF
Jump to page
be made. At whatever cost to preconceived notions
as to width of culture, or imagined expediency (" we
have to compete with other Universities ") the work
for a degree must be such that the learner can assimi-
late what he hears and reads, can immerse himself in
his subject with a sense of unhurried ooncentration.
On those twin evils, our present syllabuses and
our present examinations, similar attacks could be
made. Not that either in any given case is wrong
still less should examinations and syllabuses all be
swept away. But we must alter our view of them.
And here I touch one of the contentions put forward
with deadly urbanity by Z." in the Welsh Outlook
for July. He maintains that the teacher in our
University is not fettered as regards syllabus since
(after all discussion over a joint scheme has failed)
he can assert himself and submit an entirely different
syllabus of his own. This at first sight appears a
perfect method of ensuring freedom, and it is perhaps
the chief weapon of those who would defend the
University from disruption. But observe three
(i.) Any syllabus must be drawn up beforehand
for acceptance by the University. At present the
scheme must be submitted at least two years before
it begins to operate. And, granting that by a change
of regulations this interval might be vastly curtailed,
it remains a fact that if the University is to be more
than a name, it must give its consent before the
course of study begins. That is, our Professor of
Latin-I take" Z.'s instance-must fix what John
Jones is to read before he ever sets eyes on him.
What, then, becomes of our development of John
Jones's personality ? Is it the physician or the quack
who prescribes without seeing his patient ? The
true method is to study John Jones and to give him
what he personally needs. Imagine our Professor's
first-year Latin class. He knows nothing of them,
they nothing of him. He begins with a good steady
dose of Caesar (Gallic War, Book I., by the bye,
speeches included-no leaping into the middle at
Book IV. because last year's class did Book III.).
By the time he has reached the end of it he knows the
class. According to that knowledge he goes on.
He may finish the Gallic War-all eight books-
and a thoroughly fine piece of work it would be.
His students, long before they reached the final
book, would be thoroughly at home in Caesar's
style-reading with ease and therefore with intelli-
gence, gathering instinctively an interest in the
geography, the history, the psychology, of that
marvellous but ill-fated work. They would have
that rich, that priceless feeling, that here was
something they really knew. Meanwhile, the Pro-
fessor at a sister College, having skill as a handi-
craftsman, may have constructed a relief-model
illustrating the passage of the Helvetii into Gaul,
and the eternal factor loci natura grows from that
imbecile expression the nature of the place into
a stimulus to a vivid concern for topography, home-
made plans of marches or campaigns, and visits to
whatever Roman camps or towns are within prac-
ticable distance of the College. A natural outcome
of this might be to desert Caesar early and to study
in the Agricola of Tacitus the military geography of
our own island a company of students imitating
the Dutch infantry of Agricola who swam the Menai
Straits in the teeth of the enemy would never forget
the great soldier or his son-in-law the historian.
And for the rest of their year's work-who knows
but that in better days a party of young Welsh
scholars will trace on foot that march of Hannibal
from the Rhone to Trasimene which forms the most
glorious episode of Livy ? At a third College,
where the students of the same first book of Caesar
had been led to Mommsen, a study of the writer's
own genius and history might well prevail-lectures
on the Roman constitution and perusal of Cicero's
letters, reinforced by inscriptions and a look at the
political passages scattered through the poems of
Vergil, ending with the mighty Vision of Aeneas.
Is this natural but varied development not better
than a simultaneous stride forward half-way through
the session from Caesar to Ovid's Metamorphoses,
or even to a single book of Vergil ? But how could
it have been planned before the classes met ?
(ii.) However proposed syllabuses are allowed
to differ, still the University Charter and Z."
himself evidently contemplate some syllabus; the
Colleges should propose schemes which, though
different, yet correspond. But suppose a gifted
and original teacher wishes to have no syllabus at
all? Mere anarchy 1 you may exclaim. Perhaps
but at present we are discussing whether the teacher
is fettered or not. Now I observe, in the nick of
time, that Z." more or less clearly envisages this
and writes It is entirely a matter of personal choice
whether the professor considers a six-line syllabus
or one of ten pages best calculated for the expression
of his personality.' Would the University Senate
and Court really accept the six-line syllabus? If
we may judge by experience, certainly not, and for a
reason which flows from the third objection.
(iii.) Granted this freedom of syllabus-making,
how can the work of three Colleges be co-ordinated ?
That they must be co-ordinated is essential to a
University which offer* the same degree to its three
bands of students. Given freedom, the teaching
Previous page Rotate Left Rotate Right Next page Original Image Large Image Zoom View text PDF
Jump to page

This text was generated automatically from the scanned page and has not been checked. Typical character accuracy is in excess of 99%, but this leaves one error per 100 characters.